By Kevin Kelley
On Friday, Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald claimed an e-mail exchange between a Westlake police captain and the former police chief showed that Mayor Dennis Clough was trying to obtain political dirt on him.
The e-mail, from retired Westlake police Chief Richard Walling to Capt. Guy Turner, indicates that someone was seeking dirt on FitzGerald. But it does not state that Clough is the person seeking dirt.
Turner had asked Walling, who retired in December, if he recalled any inquiries about an October 2012 incident involving FitzGerald and a female passenger in the politician’s car.
A Westlake police officer had responded to a report of a suspicious parked car at a Clemens Road business at about 4:30 in the morning. The caller said the vehicle had been there for half an hour. FitzGerald said he was talking with a female member of a delegation from Ireland and that nothing inappropriate took place. FitzGerald said he and members of the group had been out late and he had been driving the woman back to her hotel. FitzGerald said he and his wife, Shannon, consider members of the group friends.
The Westlake police officer’s report indicated it was “just friends talking,” and no police action was taken.
The Northeast Ohio Media Group reported the October 2012 incident Friday, and FitzGerald canceled scheduled political stops and called reporters to a Columbus press conference to address the incident.
FitzGerald, who is challenging Republican Gov. John Kasich in the November election, said the incident was being publicized for political purposes. The Lakewood Democrat accused Clough, a Republican, of doing “opposition research” on him using municipal resources.
FitzGerald said he may submit documents obtained from the Westlake Police Department through a public records request to the county prosecutor to determine if any violations of the theft-in-office law took place.
FitzGerald’s gubernatorial campaign said an official with the Republican Governors Association had submitted a public records request to the Westlake Police Department seeking records and recordings related to the October 2012 incident involving FitzGerald. A public records request by West Life confirmed that Kevin A. Wright, research director with the Republican Governors Association, had made such records requests.
In his June 11, 2014, e-mail to Turner, Walling, the former police chief, said the department had not received any formal records request concerning the October 2012 incident while he was running the department.
“I believe the Mayor brought it up to me that somebody was making an inquiry about it,” Walling said. Walling said he showed the brief police entry on the October 2012 episode to the mayor.
Clough has told reporters he was not behind the news media’s reporting on the October 2012 incident.
“This is nothing more than a public records request,” Clough told West Life when asked about FitzGerald’s allegations.
On Friday, FitzGerald and his wife released a brief statement condemning the efforts by the Republican group to seek records on the episode.
“We are extremely disappointed at the personal attacks being levied against our family,” their statement read. “And equally upset that our friends in Ireland are being unjustly dragged into this negative campaign.”
Also on Friday, the FitzGerald campaign released a statement by two members of the 2012 Irish delegation, Peter Hynes and Joanne Grehan. The two said they were “deeply shocked and extremely saddened to learn that an effort is being made to construe an innocuous incident in October 2012 as something completely different.”
“After being separated from their party, Joanne and Ed (FitzGerald) stopped the car to map the actual route to the hotel,” the statement read. “The vehicle was approached by a police patrol car which stopped, checked that all was in order and then left. Ed and Joanne then continued on to the hotel where Ed dropped her off.”